UPDATE: Death Row inmate Don Davis attempted suicide Thursday at Varner unit | Arkansas Blog

Friday, July 13, 2018

UPDATE: Death Row inmate Don Davis attempted suicide Thursday at Varner unit

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 10:13 AM

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State Department of Correction officials refuse to talk about an unspecified "incident" yesterday involving Don Davis, a Death Row inmate at the Varner unit for his 1994 capital murder conviction in Benton County. UPDATE: State Police now confirm Davis has been hospitalized following an attempt to commit suicide by cutting his throat with a razor blade.

Said Solomon Graves, a prison spokesman:

Beyond stating that ADC security and medical staff responded to an incident yesterday afternoon involving I/M Davis, we do not have any further comment to provide.
I"ve asked for more under the Freedom of Information Act, but the prison system has been notoriously unforthcoming under current leadership.

I also asked John Williams, who's been a lawyer for Davis in his appeals. He responded:

I know he was taken out of the prison in an ambulance but no details or update on his condition. 
UPDATE: After stonewalling from the Correction Department, I asked the State Police if they'd been called on the incident. Spokesman Bill Sadler said they had and gave this account:

Investigators were called to Varner Supermax about 4 p.m. Thursday about an apparent suicide attempt. By the time they arrived, Davis had been taken to Jefferson Regional Medical Center. Normally, the State Police doesn't investigate suicide attempts, but because of the unusual circumstances and the presence of prison employees, it has opened a case file here.

Many details aren't known, Sadler said. But investigators had learned that Davis had made remarks whose "tone" concerned a correctional officer. When the officer returned with assistance, Davis produced a razor blade, put it to his throat and cut himself. He was hospitalized and underwent surgery, Sadler said. I've asked the hospital for a condition report, but received no word so far.

Police investigators also took custody of a note apparently written by Davis, but Sadler said he didn't know its contents. It will eventually be released when the review of the case is completed and the case file can be opened.

Davis' attorneys had received a stay of execution so he could pursue a claim for  an independent mental evaluation. He is said to have a low IQ and psychoactive substance abuse disorders. The stay was lifted in March, but a new execution date has not bee set.

UPDATE: Davis is alive and hospitalized. Beyond that prisons say nothing.

Graves contends any report by prison officers, no matter the security breach that required it, amounts to an inmate record exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. I challenge that and have asked that they seek an attorney general's opinion on the point. The secrecy of the prison system under Wendy Kelley is fast becoming a state embarrassment. We know from history the terrible things that can be done behind prison walls when there is no accountability.

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